spring 2004
table of contents
Letter from the Editor
Abortion Rights Periled
Ashcroft Wants Your Records
Gay Marriage
Women Physicists Take Charge
Softball Rights
Overhauling WIC Program
Seattle Girls Build Plane
San Francisco's Chief Women


Tree's Fruit Helps Moroccan Women
Japan's Birthrate Backlash
Baghdad's Ms.
Secret Dancing in Tehran
Portugal's Abortion Trials
Israeli Mom Marches
Helping Afghan Women

March for Women's Lives

Rocking out for Choice -- and for the April 25th March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C.
Cover Story
Who Needs First Ladies? | Ellen Hawkes
Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards Speak | Ellen Hawkes
Laura Bush and Lynne Cheney -- Opposites Attract | Laura Flanders

More Features

Ms. Conversation: Madeleine Albright | Robin Morgan
It's the Women, Stupid | Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart
Cheaper Than a Cow | Miranda Kennedy
A Cruel Edge -- Pornography | Robert Jensen
Flesh & Feminism | Carey Lovelace
This Dog's Life | by Ann Patchett

An Unhealthy Idea of Beauty | Kari Browne

Rape Shield Laws | Gloria Allred and Margery Somers

Now is the Time to Open Your Heart | Alice Walker
Biscuit Baby | Anne Harleman

One Secret Thing | Sharon Olds
Disobedience | Jane Mayhall

Touching History
Encounters with women of renown: Gwendolyn Brooks, Joan Didion, Anita Hill and Terry Tempest Williams

Book Reviews
Rebecca Brown on The Mystery of Breathing by Perri Klass;
Melissa Fay Greene on The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler;
Jennifer Baumgardner on Silences: 25th Anniversary Edition by Tillie Olsen;
Noel Riley Fitch on The Radical Lives of Helen Keller by Kim E. Niensen;
Lynell George on A Woman's Worth by Tracy Price-Thompson

Robin Morgan

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| spring 2004


Elizabeth Edwards, The Strategist

Some call it her “bluntness”; whether Elizabeth Edwards is making jokes about her husband’s youthful good looks or presenting policy positions, she doesn’t mince her words. She regards herself as a full partner both in her marriage and in the campaign.

The primary in Oklahoma was a perfect example. John Edwards did far better there than expected, something noted on CNN by Democratic operative Paul Begala. The 11th-hour endorsement by Oklahoma University football coach Barry Switzer was considered key to Edwards’showing.

Begala called the seeking of the endorsement the work of a “brilliant political strategist.” What genius came up with such an idea? Begala asked. Elizabeth Edwards was the answer.

Elizabeth, born in 1949, says hermother was a “stay-at-home mom”: “Although she was largely traditional as a wife and mother, she was also independent-minded,” Elizabeth told Ms. “Because of her encouragement, she led me to believe that there wasn’t a single thing I couldn’t do, that I could be anything I wanted to be.”

The growing feminist movement also had an impact on Edwards. “I still vividly remember an early issue of Ms. magazine with the famous article about the ‘click’ moment when women finally recognize the stereotypes that are imposed on them. I was already fairly independent, but it certainly fine-tuned my antenna to the moments when men make assumptions about what you are able to do because you are woman,” she said.

After college and graduate school, Elizabeth entered law school at the University of North Carolina. She met John Edwards in class. They married two years later. As John advanced in his career as a trial lawyer, Elizabeth juggled the demands of her career (first working for the attorney general’s office, then in a private law firm) with raising their two oldest children: Wade, born in 1979, and Catharine (“Cate”), born in 1983.

Their happy life changed dramatically in 1996 when Wade died in an automobile accident. After a long period of mourning, Elizabeth and John looked for different purposes in their lives. They established the nonprofit Wade Edwards Foundation to create after-school centers and computer learning labs. For his part, John decided to run for public office.

Elizabeth had always used Anania as her last name, but in 1996 she took the name Edwards, not for political reasons but to honor the memory of their son. “I took my son’s name,” she said briskly. “I didn’t take my husband’s name.” She also had two more children: Emma Claire in 1998, and John “Jack” Edwards in 2000.

Elizabeth perceives her role in the campaign in a different way than she views the equal partnership of her marriage. “In a sense it is a derivative existence, and you have to accept that. If you’re effective, you don’t want people to look at you,
you want them to look through you to him. But I also know that it’s not enough, nor should it be enough, to convince any voter by saying, ‘I love him, so vote for him.’

“If I were to become first lady,” says Edwards, “I would want to learn from previous first ladies; in fact, I have already learned from the wide variety of women’s roles represented by the other candidates’ spouses in this race. For me, I can’t imagine turning down the megaphone for the things I am committed to, like real equal education opportunities for everyone."

-- Ellen Hawkes

For more information about Elizabeth Edwards, read her bio here.


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